Margaret’s Espresso Cake

Espresso Cake Recipe

This is one of my late mother-in-law Margaret’s most-treasured recipes. I’ve made a few tweaks of my own. First, Margaret kept a kosher kitchen and baked with margarine, but this updated version has my beloved butter. Also, I’ve substituted full-flavored espresso powder for the generic instant coffee in the original. And Margaret never used a tube pan. Nonetheless, when I make this cake, I think of her and smile. A simple coffee glaze tops it all off.

To give this espresso cake its proper deep beige color and coffee flavor, you must use both hot brewed coffee and instant espresso or coffee powder. Instant espresso yields the richest flavor.–Sarabeth Levine and Rick Rodgers

LC Naming Conventions Note

Although we don’t know Margaret, we, too, now think of her with appreciation when we make this cake. We think you’ll feel the same. And if you’re one of those types who needs a shot of espresso in the a.m. before you even consider being grateful, consider oomphing the caffeination of this cake by adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon or so of instant powder to ensure you get a proper fix. Conversely, if serving this as dessert, you may care to either rely on decaf expresso or warn guests accordingly of its stimulating potential.

Special Equipment: 10- to 12-cup fluted tube pan

Espresso Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes 12 servings


  • For the cake
  • 1 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 3 tablespoons instant espresso or coffee powder (preferably instant espresso)
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • For the coffee glaze
  • 2 tablespoons hot brewed coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder (preferably instant espresso)
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted


  • Make the cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) and position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour a 10- to 12-cup fluted tube pan and tap out the excess flour.
  • 2. Combine the brewed coffee and espresso powder in a glass measuring cup and let cool.
  • 3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in the sugar, then add the vanilla and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the mixture is very light in color and texture, about 4 minutes. Beat in the yolks, 1 at a time.
  • 4. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the cooled coffee in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until smooth after each addition.
  • 5. Beat the egg whites in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer on high speed or a balloon whisk until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the spatula.
  • 6. Bake until the top of the cake springs back when gently pressed with your finger and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.
  • 7. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert and unmold the cake onto the wire rack set over a baking sheet. Cool completely.
  • Make the glaze
  • 8. Mix the brewed coffee and espresso powder in a small saucepan until the espresso powder is dissolved. Stir in the milk. Add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until smooth. Place over low heat and heat, whisking constantly, until the glaze is warm to the touch and thins slightly.
  • Embellish the cake
  • 9. Transfer the glaze to a glass measuring cup. Slowly pour the warm glaze over the cake, letting it flow over the indentations in the cake down the center of the cake. You will have plenty of glaze. Cool completely before slicing. (The cake can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.)
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